It is the believer’s privilege to lean on his Beloved—the Lord Jesus—when life takes him through tough times. Pastor Bobby Chaw explained three ways to lean on God in last weekend’s sermon.
“We live in turbulent times. Our lives are rife with conflicts, diseases, and depression. Yet, the Bible tells us that in every situation, we can walk in the peace of God,” preached Bobby Chaw, executive pastor of City Harvest Church as he began his sermon on 5 and 6 November. “The presence of the Holy Spirit with us, is the secret of our inner peace and power, against a hostile world.”
In his previous sermon, he shared from Songs of Song 8:5, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” This verse speaks of the relationship between a believer and the Lord. In spite of harsh conditions, the believer is not in despair, but instead rises gloriously from the wilderness.
Romans 8:37 reads, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Pastor Bobby taught that in the Chinese translation, the phrase “through Him who loved us” is translated as “leaning on the Lord”.
“The key here is to lean on the Lord,” Pastor Bobby noted. “Because God is love and He loves you. He’s always near for you to lean upon.”
In Isaiah 41:10, God tells His people that He will strengthen them and uphold them with His righteous right hand. However, Pastor Bobby reminded the church that if they want God’s help, they must want to lean upon Him.
“God does not force or threaten us to lean upon Him. Yes, He convicts and moves us into intimacy,” Pastor Bobby explained further. “Ultimately, the decision lies within you. You must respond and make a choice to lean on Him.”
What does it mean to lean on the Beloved? In Hebrew, the word “lean” is rāpaq, and has various meanings. Pastor Bobby shared three of them.
1. SURRENDER TO JESUS
To lean is firstly to surrender, to stop resisting, and give oneself up to the power of another. Pastor Bobby likened it to a marriage relationship where the bride and groom exchange vows to give up the autonomy of a single life and give themselves to each other.
The Gospel of John tells of a disciple who leaned on Jesus’ bosom (Jn 13:28). “This disciple was John himself,” Pastor Bobby noted. “However, John was far from someone who surrendered easily to the Lord.”
In his youth, John was spiritually immature, hot-headed, aggressive,and unyielding. Together with his brother James, he once suggested calling down fire on the Samarians when they did not receive Jesus (Lk 9:54). Jesus rebuked the brothers and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.”
“John had the wrong spirit,” Pastor Bobby pointed out. “One that was not Christlike—he was aggressive and hostile. But the spirit of Christ is the spirit of mercy and grace. Jesus came to save, not destroy.”
When he first started following Jesus, John displayed traits of his old self that he had not given up, but he surrendered his wilful and explosive nature to Jesus, day by day. Whenever he was rebuked or corrected by the Lord, he was neither offended nor wallowed in self-pity. Instead, he embodied Christ’s nature and attitude as he remembered the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5)
John eventually gave up his anger, strife and ungodly ambitions, and yielded himself to the fruits of the Spirit. “John was so transformed by abiding and leaning on the Lord, that he became known as the Apostle of love,” the pastor said.
He went on to teach that yielding to the Lord is not a one-time event. The word “abide” was written in a present, ongoing, unbroken tense. Therefore, yielding and surrendering to the Lord, should be a present, ongoing and unbroken act.
“Friends, today, have you surrendered to Jesus?” Pastor Bobby asked the congregation. “I’m not talking about five years ago when you first gave your life to Christ, but right now.”
He urged the congregation to reflect on their own attitudes and see if they are still hanging onto old habits and lifestyles that are not Christlike. He encouraged them to surrender and lean on Jesus.
“Once you surrender and lean on our Beloved, Jesus, He promises to strengthen and help you, so that you will bear fruit and be transformed, from glory to glory into His image,” he explains.
When Jesus was crucified, many disciples left but John remained steadfastly by Jesus’ side. There, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary into his care, and John took her into his own home (Jn 19:27). “John faithfully carried out this mundane task of caring for Mary,” Pastor Bobby explained. “And though John had many revelations, and even saw visions of heaven and heard words, messages that he needed to deliver to the people, mission works to accomplish, tradition tells us that John remained by Mary’s side until she died.”
It was only after Mary’s death that John went to Ephesus and pastored the church there. All he wanted to do was to live the life Jesus had intended him to live. He was willing to give up his ambitions, surrendering all to Jesus. As a result, he rose from the wilderness and transformed from being a Son of Thunder to becoming a child of God.
2. JOIN WITH JESUS
Secondly, the word “lean” means to join. In the Old Testament, when God’s people were in turmoil and chaos, God would call them to join themselves with Him (Jer 50:5).
Matthew was a tax collector before he became a disciple of Christ and his name was Levi, which means “join”. “He was once joined to the world, lusting for power and greed,” Pastor Bobby explained. “He would use his power to extort, bully and rob people for money and personal gain.” The Jews hated tax collectors and considered them to be traitors as they had joined hands with the Romans to oppress their own people.
At the first mention of Levi in the gospel, he was found seated in the tax office, counting money. But in Luke 5:27, when Jesus told Levi to follow him, he responded, leaving everything behind. Levi made the decision to leave his old life behind and joined himself with the Lord. He then threw a party at his house, and publicly announced his new allegiance to Jesus. At the same time, bidding farewell to his old lifestyle.
Just by joining himself with Jesus, Levi rose from a life of a despicable tax collector and became an apostle of Christ. Levi was later known as Matthew, which means “a gift from God”. He gifted Christians the Gospel of Matthew, which recorded the Sermon on the Mount and many parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. The thing that transformed the life of Matthew was joining himself with Jesus.
“Who or what have you joined yourself with?” Pastor Bobby asked. “Are there toxic or harmful relationships that you need to bid farewell to? Are there activities driving you further away from God? Is Jesus calling you to join Him in spiritual disciplines to pray and study the Word of God? You gain more than you lose, once you join yourselves with the Lord.” (Mk 10:29)
Pastor Bobby then shared the story of Elizabeth, who graduated from CHC’s School of Theology in 2018. Before Elizabeth came to SOT, she was pastoring a small church in the Philippines. She had a strong desire to preach the gospel to the unreached tribal people but did not do so because of the risk and inconvenience involved.
In the midst of SOT, the Lord spoke to her and reignited this vision in her heart. Despite her uncertainties, she decided to surrender to Jesus. And after graduation, she returned to the Philippines and sought out the tribal people in the mountains. To get there, she needed to travel three hours by car and another two on foot.
These tribal people were primitive and did not associate with people from the city. Despite this, Elizabeth tried to befriend them and stayed with them in the mountains. She gave up the comfort of city life to sleep in a small tent. Elizabeth shared her food with them, taught them to brush their teeth, and to bathe in the river using bars of soap.
Eventually, she won the heart of the tribal leader, and the whole tribe came out to hear her preach every week. The leader was so touched by the love of God that he introduced her to the other tribal leaders. Tribe by tribe, she preached the love of God. In the last four years, she has planted 16 churches and each congregation has about 100 to 300 people.
“Looking at Elizabeth, she really is a girl next door,” Pastor Bobby explained. “But if God can use her, God can use you. But are you willing to join and respond to Christ?
3. DELIGHT IN THE LORD
Lastly, to lean means to delight in the Lord. “Jesus takes delight in you, He loves you!” Pastor Bobby reminded the congregation. “You make Him happy. You are good enough for the Lord. He esteems you and cherishes your presence.”
Pastor Bobby likened it to how happy he and his wife, Cindy feel when they see their son at home. His son has just completed his National Service and his presence at home made them happy. “This is how the Lord feels, He takes pleasure in you,” the pastor said. “But what about you? Is God your delight? Your pleasure? Does His presence excite you and make you happy?”
To some people, spending time to seek God’s presence, praying and worship seems more of a chore than a joy. They are not developed nor conditioned in their minds and body to delight in the Lord. Growing up, people learned to find pleasures in eating, drinking, and entertainment. When they are stressed, they turn to social media, movies and even sports for a laugh.
“We were not trained in our spirit, soul, and body to find delight and pleasures in the Lord,” Pastor Bobby taught. “Those pleasures are not wrong, but they do not last. Only in God’s presence can you experience the fullness of joy.”
He emphasised, “You need to retrain your spirit, soul, and body to find light in the law. This is where spiritual disciplines come in.”
Pastor Bobby went on to share about the prayer project which he started in mid-November last year. He would send a voice message of personal prayer to the members of Chinese Service. He admitted that it became quite routine and boring after a while, but he was determined to keep doing it.
This project that started with a desire became a discipline. “And in this spiritual discipline, I’ve found great joy and delight in God’s presence. I found myself growing accustomed to His presence,” he shared.
Pastor Bobby found so much joy in praying that he went on to pray for his English members. He has sent out 1,949 individual prayers to date. “Let your joy in the Lord grow, through spiritual disciplines of prayer and studying the Word,” he urged the church.
Pastor Bobby then recalled his fellowship with some members in the Chinese service—most of them were over 70 but yet were so full of joy and vitality. They were urging him to bring them on a spiritual retreat to seek the Lord. In their conversation, they would be encouraging each other to continue serving God. Recently, an 84-year-old member was even promoted to a Ministry Member because he was so committed to serving as an usher every week.
They all had one thing in common—they were in love with the Word of God. They would gather weekly to read the Bible together and copy verses from the Bible by hand. “Happy is the man who delights himself in the law of the Lord, and in his law, he meditates day and night,” Pastor Bobby said, quoting Psalms 1.
In closing, the pastor reiterated the three ways to lean on Jesus, saying, “The Bible says we’re more than conquerors through Him, leaning upon Him who loves us.”